Winter Protection from Vitamins D and K
What is Vitamin D3?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. The major source of vitamin D in humans is ultraviolet B (UVB) light which induces the synthesis of cholecalciferol (vitamin D). In other words, vitamin D is formed in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is found in small quantities in some high fat animal foods but is not generally well absorbed from food. Vitamin D3 has been shown to increase vitamin D levels to a greater extent than D2 (1).
What is Vitamin K2?
Vitamin K refers to a family of fat-soluble compounds known as quinones. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone) is found in some fermented foods and produced by bacteria in the intestines. It aids the utilisation of vitamin D and calcium in the body.
Why are Vitamin D and K important?
People deficient in both vitamin D and K are at an increased risk of death from all causes compared with those with adequate vitamin D and K status (2). To find out why you might want to consider supplementing with Tom Oliver’s Vitamin D plus K2 read on.
Vitamin D, the Immune System and COVID-19
So far there is no specific and effective medication for COVID-19 and a vaccine is not yet available. Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the general population as well as in patients with COVID-19.
Vitamin D regulates the immune system in a number of ways; it stimulates antimicrobial proteins; reduces inflammation; and enhances autophagy which helps to combat pathogens including viral infections (Bishop).
It’s known that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial for people infected with viruses, such as HIV and hepatitis C (3), as well as in the prevention of respiratory infections and in the improvement of pulmonary function (4).
In addition, inflammatory conditions such as Covid-19 are known to exert adverse effects on bone metabolism. Vitamin D supplementation in patients who are deficient could be beneficial for bone metabolism, as well as for the immune system (5).
Vitamin K may also be helpful in the treatment of COVID-19 due to its anti-coagulant effects (6)
Vitamin D and K and Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a multifaceted disorder, characterized by insufficient bone strength. Vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium and magnesium. Vitamin D deficiency causes osteomalacia, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and an increased risk for fractures and falls (5). Supplementing with vitamin K2 and D3 has been shown to have positive effects on bone formation and bone mineral density (7,8,9).
Post menopausal women are at particular risk of osteoporosis due to the hormonal changes that take place at this time of life. Research investigating the effect of vitamin K2 and D3 supplementation on postmenopausal women with osteopenia and osteoporosis found that continuously supplementing with both vitamin K2 and D3 for 2 years increased vertebral bone mass in postmenopausal women. No adverse reactions were observed (10,11).
Osteoporosis is also one of the chief complications of anorexia nervosa. Supplementing anorexic patients with vitamin D3 or vitamin K2 prevents further decrease in bone mineral density (12).
Vitamin D and K and Osteoarthritis
Sufficient levels of vitamins D and K are associated with better lower-extremity function, including improved gait speed and ability to get up and down from a chair, in people with osteoarthritis of the knee (13).
Why is vitamin D deficiency so widespread in Europe?
Although vitamin D can be made in the body through the action of sunlight on the skin most people living in temperate zones are deficient for the following reasons:
- The strength of the UV rays from the sun in the winter months is not sufficient for the manufacture of vitamin D.
- Cloud cover and pollution limit UVB exposure even in the summer.
- Fears about the sun causing skin cancer and skin ageing means that many people wear sun screen or cover up when outside.
Who Could Benefit from Supplemental D3?
Supplementing with vitamin D3 can reduce the impact of low UVB availability on vitamin D status (14). The Department of Health recommends that the following people take vitamin D supplements:
- Babies and children from 6 months to 5 years old
- Pregnant and breast feeding women
- Anyone over the age of 65
- Those who cover their skin for religious or cultural reasons
- Those who are housebound or office bound for much of the day
- People with darker skins
- Those with or at risk of osteoporosis
If you are taking anticoagulants such as Coumadin or Warfarin check with your health care practitioner before supplementing with vitamin D.